06/14/2013 12:43 pm ET Updated Aug 14, 2013

Running: Barefooted (Part 2)

Nix the Kool-Aid

Now, incredibly, the problem of gait and shoe research is exacerbated by the presupposition, which is the assumption-- and you know what happens when we assume things, right? -- that the shod condition is somehow the baseline, the norm. Naturally, this skews all subsequent results. Conclusions are built on faulty premises. Of course, within that context, trying to talk sense to those invested in the medical/shoe industry complex is akin to admonishing the ills of alcohol abuse to revelers at college fraternity bacchanalia. The intoxicated, you know, know no reason. Now, on the sober side there are podiatrists, M.D.s, and researchers who recognize some irrefutable facts.

Michael Warburton, an Australian physiotherapist, says:

Running related chronic injuries to bone and connective tissue in the legs are rare in developing countries where most of the people are habitually barefooted.

Canadian researchers Robbins and Hanna say:

Where barefoot and shod populations exist, as in Haiti, injury rates of the lower extremity are substantially higher in the shoe wearing population.

Lynn Staheli, M.D., renowned pediatric orthopedist, says:

If you look at a place like China, and you compare the feet of those who don't wear shoes with those who do you find that the non-shoe-wearers have better flexibility and mobility. Their feet are stronger, they have fewer deformities, and less complaints that the shoe-wearing population.

Further, the late podiatrist and author William Rossi (who grew up in Boston, living above his parents' shoe store) points out that:

From infancy on, most of the hundreds of millions of shoeless people of the world habitually stand and walk, not on soft, yielding turf (a persistent myth among the medical practitioners) but mostly on unyielding ground surfaces. Most shoeless children are raised in such environments in cities like Bombay, Manila, Mexico City, Calcutta, Jakarta, Bogota, etc., where the streets are either cobble-stoned or paved or hard packed turf. Those uncovered, unsupported feet grow with strong, normal arches.

Rossi continues:

A century ago, the rickshaw, which originated in Japan, was the common means of transportation in many Asian cities. In 1910, some 18,000 rickshaws and 27,000 rickshaw men were registered in Shanghai alone. The rickshaw men, most of whom began their occupations in their late teens, averaged 20 to 25 miles daily, trotting barefoot, mostly on cobbled or paved streets and roads. Many stayed at this occupation for 40 or 50 years. The feet and arches of almost all were healthy and exceptionally strong.

Consider too that researcher Adam Daoud of Harvard University references the 2004 work of Harvard professor Dan Lieberman and University of Utah professor, Dennis Bramble, when he says that:

... evolutionary pressure selected for endurance running ability for around 2 million years before the development of the modern running shoe," and, that "one would then predict barefoot running to be both efficient and safe.

Check out Running: Barefooted (Part 3): What About Injury? "Despite the claimed advances in running shoe technology, rehabilitation techniques, and training methods, there is still no real consensus on the actual cause of these injuries..."

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